Siberian cities? Doesn’t everybody’s phantasy run wild? Dirty, cold, mosquito infested, dull places? Well you could not be more wrong, Khabarovsk is a beautiful city, green as it can be, trees line every street, with lots of parks full of kids. there are numerous museums, a lively art scene and a water front. Winters are harsh though with 30 degrees minus but the city and people are equipped for these temperatures. Like so often when visiting unusual places, I realize how manipulated and brainwashed we all have become and what terrible stereotypes we live with.
Even its architecture is worth mentioning. Old brick-stone houses from the time of the Czar stand next to modern, expensive apartment high-rises that sell for a million rubels. Of course, the notorious Soviet-style “Plattenbauten” are a common sight and even a few wooden buildings. The parks were full of families with happy children that eagerly use the many attractions offered: riding ponies, driving small battery-run motorcycles and cars. Kids are on scouters, hoover-boards, bicycle or simple chasing each other.
The place to be in the evening. Families push prams with their youngsters along the majestic promenade, older children scream their guts out on roller coasters, fairy-wheels and bumpers cars. Food trucks invite to take a break, sample some of the goodies and watch the breath-taking sunsets. Those evenings on the banks of the Amur River were the absolute high-lights of my visit.
Every two hours a boat leaves from the beach to take locals and tourists up to the famous bridge across the Amur. The boat turns around immediately after it passes under the bridge, which is a pity, I wish we could have sailed further into the setting sun.
Famous Bridge across Amur
The bridge was finished in 1916 and allowed the transib to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok without having to use a ferry. The 2,6 km long bridge remained the longest bridge in Imperial Russian and the Soviet Union for a long time. The story of its construction is quite exciting, a year after construction began on 30 July 1913, the First World War broke out. Since the bridge was being constructed in Poland the spans had to be brought to Khabarovsk by sea all the way around Eurasia. In fall 1914, a ship carrying the last two spans was sunk in the Indian Ocean by the German Navy delaying the completion of the bridge by more than a year. Only in 1999 a new double-decker bridge was built now carrying the famous transib and a highway.
Monuments reminding of the unimaginable human loss the Soviet Union endured between 1941-1945 can be found in almost every Russian town, the one in Khabarovsk is different. It is shockingly large. 40.000 names are engraved in golden letters in gigantic blocks of black marble, 40.000 lives lost only from the Khabarovsk region. This Square of Fame also houses a moment reminding of all the wars Soviet soldiers fought and died, like Afghanistan or Angola…
Chasing the Sights
Of the many museums in Khabarosvk I focused on the Far East Regional Museum, it is one of the oldest museums in Russia’s far east and housed in an impressive 1894 red-brick building. Most interesting was the ethnographic section with displays of indigenous cultures from around the Amur.
The Cathedral of the Transfiguration towers this golden domed church towers majestically on a large square. I visited during a mess which is spent standing up, a basket with scarves tells you to cover your head and hair, mini—skirts and sleeve-less shirts are okay.
Khabarovsk Cliff is a bit of a confusing sight. If you looking for a cliff, well you won’t see it straight since it is covered with vegetation. On top sits a bleach white building overlooking the beach below. My visit to a hairdresser was well documented and commented on facebook. Lenin Square and Dynamo Parks are also worth a visit.
The city is compact but too big to walk everywhere, especially since my hotel, Hotel Khabarovsk a quiet a bit up Lenin Street. If I ever went back, I would stay in a hotel more central. Since I didn’t quite understood the bus system straight away I chose to hire a local guide and I could not have been luckier, Natalia and her boyfriend Evgenii took me around and also gave me the idea of travelling to Birobidzhan, the capital Jewish Autonomous Region of Oblast in Russia’s Far East.